Head of Christian aerobics group visits Arkansas to train instructors, spread the news

Amy Stafford, pictured at an aerobics session in Milpitas, Calif. in 2019, is president of Body & Soul Fitness, which offers Christian aerobics classes in the United States and around the world.
(Photo courtesy of Body & Soul Fitness/Max Huss)
Amy Stafford, pictured at an aerobics session in Milpitas, Calif. in 2019, is president of Body & Soul Fitness, which offers Christian aerobics classes in the United States and around the world. (Photo courtesy of Body & Soul Fitness/Max Huss)


Body & Soul Fitness is an aerobics program that seeks to strengthen Christians' faith, not just their muscles.

Launched in Maryland more than four decades ago, it meets primarily in churches and promises "no mirrors and no judgment -- just acceptance and encouragement."

In Central Arkansas, classes are held at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Little Rock, First United Methodist Church in North Little Rock, Cornerstone Bible Fellowship in Sherwood and Trinity Baptist Church in Searcy, the group's website states.

"We have about 175 instructors across the United States and probably about 90 internationally," said Amy Stafford of Panama City, Fla., the group's president.

She's visiting Arkansas this week to attend classes, train instructors and spread the news.

"Body & Soul is absolutely a ministry," Stafford said. "God used it to draw me closer to him in the last 22 years in ways I couldn't have imagined he'd do."

The nonprofit group began in 1981, just in time to ride one of the biggest exercise waves of the 20th century.

"Jane Fonda's Workout Book," was released that year. "Jane Fonda's Workout," one of the bestselling videos of all time, soon followed, helping to ignite the aerobics craze.

Rather than sweating to the oldies, Body & Soul Fitness participants can perspire to contemporary Christian music. There's prayer and camaraderie as well.

"We have men, but it's probably 98% women," said Ruth Ann Dreyer, the organization's Oklahoma-based regional director.

The organization pays for the music it uses, choreographs the moves and provides devotional materials.

Each session's soundtrack is gospel-affirming, Dreyer said.

"We're very, very, very careful in our music selection. Every single word is scrutinized. We have artists that we know are very faithful and staying close to Scripture, and they lead a life that isn't going to derail anybody," she said. "We have artists that we know we can trust."

Body & Soul Fitness has been providing classes in Central Arkansas for more than three decades, according to Susanne Lewis, a longtime instructor from Little Rock.

"It's a solid ministry and it's been a blessing for me to be a part of it," she said.

"Any fitness level [can] come and join the class," she said. "If someone's not able to bounce and jog, we are able to show [them] what we call 'low impact options.'"

Participants pay $25 per month for once-weekly classes; $40 per month for twice weekly sessions or $55 for the Ultimate package -- which includes up to five classes weekly, plus unlimited access to Body & Soul FitTV, which offers additional "on-demand" workout options.

Signup information is available at bodyandsoul.org.

Over the years, Body & Soul Fitness has expanded, Stafford said.

"Some of us have started teaching virtually," she said.

There are in-person classes, as well, in Hungary, Germany and elsewhere.

"Most of our international classes are on the continent of Africa, so we've got Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Rwanda and have most recently opened in Uganda," she said.

"It's so encouraging to really see God at work, really, tangibly. Around the world, they're sharing the gospel in those classes just like here in Little Rock and just like in Panama City, Fla.," she said.


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